By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — An incident initially reported as a robbery Sunday morning resulted in a brother and sister from Milwaukee being arrested and accused of forcing a woman to work as a prostitute in Mankato.
A man called police just after 7 a.m. Sunday to report he had been robbed in the parking lot of the Days Inn hotel off Highway 169. It was reported the suspects were two women who had left the scene in a gold Chevy van.
One of the officers investigating, Sgt. Adam Gray, recognized the van as being associated with two women he had dealt with the previous Thursday. He had been called to the AmericInn hotel near campus for a prostitution report involving two women.
The same two women, 22-year-old Lakisha Denise Hinton and a woman only identified by her initials in criminal complaints filed Tuesday, also had been involved in a prostitution report at the Super 8 motel off Highway 169 on March 20, Gray reported. The second woman is not being identified because she told investigators she had been forced into prostitution.
When Gray responded to the AmericInn incident, he suspected Hinton was acting as a pimp and promoting the other woman as a prostitute.
One of the officers responding to the Days Inn Sunday, Justin Lindmeyer, became suspicious when the man who reported the robbery, identified as Mitch Gondreau, explained what had happened. After talking to Lakisha Hinton, her brother, 24-year-old Lemark Lamont Hinton, and the other woman, the officer went back to Gondreau and asked him to tell the truth, the complaint said.
At that point Gondreau told police he had responded to an advertisement on a website called Mankato.backpage.com. He said he found a phone number in a section advertising escort services. When Gondreau called the number, he made arrangements to trade $60 in marijuana and $30 in cash for what he assumed would be sexual favors, according to the complaints.
Gondreau was told to drive to the Days Inn hotel and knock on the door for room 212. No one answered the door, but a woman met him in the hallway and told him to come to the parking lot. That woman was the one identified by her initials in the complaint.
They walked to the van, which was in the parking lot, and were met by Lakisha Hinton, the complaint said. Gondreau told Lindmeyer he gave Hinton the marijuana before he got into the back of the van with the other woman. Hinton opened the back door to the van a short time later after Gondreau became uncomfortable and started arguing with the other woman, he reported.
After Hinton refused to return the money, Gondreau left the van and went back to his car. He told Lindmeyer he lied about the robbery when he called police because he was embarrassed about what had happened, the complaint said.
He was able to use a computer in Lindmeyer’s squad car to call up the ad with the number he had called. It had an area code from Milwaukee.
The Hintons and the other woman were later located at the Microtel hotel along Victory Drive. Lakisha Hinton told Lindmeyer the other woman had met Gondreau at a party and he had invited them to the Days Inn. She also showed Lindmeyer her cellphone call record, which confirmed that was the number Gondreau had called when he responded to the Internet ad, the complaint said.
When the other woman was interviewed by police, she said she had been in a relationship with Lakisha Hinton for about four years. She said they were in the area because Hinton’s sister lives in North Mankato. They had been in the area for a short time last year, left, then returned about a month ago, she told police.
The woman also said Hinton began abusing her about four or five months after their relationship started. She accused Lakisha Hinton of beating her with a belt, torturing her with a stun gun and burning her with cigarettes.
She said the prostitution started in Milwaukee and she had been living mainly in hotels with Hinton since they met. Lakisha Hinton uses backpages or Craigslist websites to initiate contact with men and arranged between one and eight prostitution meetings per day, the woman reported. She also said she had attempted to escape in the past but was caught and severely beaten by Hinton, the complaint said.
Investigators also learned that Lemark Hinton is usually with his sister and the woman and the van that was being used belonged to him.
Both Hintons are facing several felony charges related to prostitution and sex trafficking. They appeared Tuesday before Blue Earth County District Court Judge George Harrelson.
Michael Hanson, assistant county attorney, requested $50,000 bail with conditions for Lakisha Hinton, saying she and her brother were being evasive about where they were living. He also said she had been a flight risk in the past in Wisconsin.
“There appears to be several failures to appear and bail jumping,” Hanson said. “Those facts along with the facts of the case necessitate the bail we are requesting.”
Harrelson set bail at $50,000 with conditions for Lakisha Hinton and $10,000 with conditions for Lemark Hinton.